What is Walk & Talk Psychotherapy?

Our bodies are made to move, and walking is probably the single activity that brings the most benefits for the whole body. Walk and Talk counseling sessions use the physiological benefits of walking to support mental and emotional health.

A walk and talk session is exactly what it sounds like: you walk outside with your therapist during your counseling session. This can create a more relaxed environment, and sometimes make talking about difficult things easier. You set the pace, from a slow, meditative walk to an active, high energy session.

Walk and talk sessions can help get things moving, both literally and figuratively. They are a great fit for when you are going through a life transition, experiencing loss or grief, feeling challenged, or experiencing anxiety. The physical rhythm of walking becomes meditative, calming the nervous system and supporting emotional health.

On a physical level, walking outside while working with mental and emotional health topics reduces anxiety and stress and improves overall mood. The activity can reduce depressive symptoms, and being outside supports feelings of grounding and release. Not being face to face for the counseling session can also create more ease for processing on some topics.

Activity in general, like walking, also increases creativity, self-awareness, and emotional awareness. This means that walk and talk sessions can boost positive therapy outcomes. The movement improves blood flow to the brain, and one theory suggests that walking decreases brain activity in the left hemisphere and opens the way for creative insights in the right hemisphere.

Walk and Talk psychotherapy helps to integrate body and mind for the greater support of overall health. At Ha.Lé, our psychotherapists are happy to conduct sessions in a cozy office or while walking quiet residential streets, and you can decide as you go what the best option is for you.

Mindful Yoga is a Treatment for the Whole Self

Yoga, at its heart, is therapeutic. It is an ancient system of connecting the mind and body so that they move together and support health and vitality. Though it is popular to use yoga as a means to fitness goals, that is a narrow interpretation of a comprehensive system of health and treatment.

Yoga is a form of mindfulness practice, cultivating awareness from within the body. By bringing attention to the breath and alignment, it trains and conditions the mind. This has been shown to help improve cognitive function, boost memory, and reduce baseline stress levels.

In many ways, gentle yoga is the most advanced yoga. Without fast pacing or high physical challenge to occupy the mind, your attention is able to turn to the wealth of information percolating up from within the body: the exact angle of knee bend that begins to make an old injury ache; a perpetual knot in your shoulders that brings certain memories to the surface; the joy that comes from releasing tension in the low back. By tuning in to this body wisdom, we are able to better engage with our health and support ourselves.

Slower, more deliberate yoga is therefore able to treat imbalances and address discomfort, often before they become a bigger issue. It supports flexibility, lubricates joints, develops strength, increases balance, and reduces mental, emotional, and physical stress levels. Also, because it does use slower and gentler poses, it is accessible to a wider range of practitioners. Do not mistake it for easy, but know that it creates space for a wide range of bodies, ages, and levels of experience.

At Ha.Lé, our yoga classes are based in mindfulness practice. They are designed as treatments to support health and to continue the care we offer in our appointments. Therapeutic yoga is an effective way to support the whole self, bringing body and mind together to create health.

Go for a Walk

Our bodies are made to move, and specifically, to walk. We are fundamentally designed to use our feet to move from one place to another. This means that, on a biological level, walking activates important physical processes and balances our bodies in important and sometimes profound ways.

The power of walking comes through the movement. Our circulation increases, which allows our tissues to be nourished by more blood and oxygen. This nourishment allows them to repair and heal minor stresses, often before we notice them. Walking also allows us to enter into a naturally rhythmic state, which helps our minds shift into light meditation and stress reduction mode with ease.

The motion of putting one foot in front of the other coordinates complex interactions between muscles, bones, and connective tissues. It is an ongoing conversation that keeps each part healthy and connected to the whole. Increasing regular walks allows the body to adjust muscles and movements back toward healthy alignment and engagement, correcting some gait issues caused by too much sitting and not enough moving.

The corrective power of walking is well documented. Studies have shown that walking eases joint pain and arthritis by lubricating the joints and strengthening the muscles that support them. It also boosts immune function, reducing sick days by 43%. It can improve posture by reestablishing natural movement patterns, and it provides all the benefits of weight-bearing exercise. Because walking requires your body to stand upright against gravity, it increases bone density and muscle tone.  

Walking is a powerful way to increase whole body health, and is especially effective when you go for walks outdoors. This brings you connection with nature, fresh air, and sunshine, helping to reduce stress levels and relax the body and mind. Walk more to increase your overall sense of well being.

How Often Do You Need Self-Care?

Our bodies require regular care in order to thrive and heal, and one of the best ways to make sure we are on top of our self-care is to put it on our schedule instead of trying to fit it in around everything else. As a health and wellness practice, HaLe’ has experience with what kinds of schedules work best. Here are our recommendations, based on the state of your body:

Acute Pain: 3 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every week

Acute pain is an active, painful flare up or injury. The body needs frequent treatment in order to release secondary tension, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, support the lymph system, regulate the pain signals, and generally assist the healing process.

Sub-acute: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 2 weeks

Sub-acute pain falls between acute pain (sudden and awful) and chronic pain (long term, constant/consistent pain). It means that something hurts, but it hasn’t been hurting for a very long time and it isn’t terrible. The body is not in crisis but still in need of support and healing, so regular treatment until it resolves is recommended.

Chronic: Start with 2-3 classes/wk and bodywork or acupuncture every 1-2 weeks, then taper down

Chronic pain is long term pain that is not healing or getting better, and can be anywhere on the spectrum from unbearable to really annoying. Addressing chronic pain involves a combination of treatments to reduce overall pain levels and to treat the root cause of the chronic condition. This usually means coming often at the beginning, and as treatment makes progress at interrupting the pain cycle, tapering off gradually until treatments reach a maintenance level.

Maintenance: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 4 weeks

To maintain a level of general good health and low pain, we recommend a basic self-care schedule. This helps resolve issues before they begin to hurt, reduces baseline stress levels, hydrates the connective tissue (fascia), and promotes a general sense of well-being. People who are very active or athletic may need more frequent self-care maintenance.

 

A Note on Mental Health care:

These same protocols can also be applied to mental and emotional health. Psychotherapy sessions for high distress, medium distress, chronic distress, and mental health maintenance often follow the same frequency guidelines as the pain levels, since mental and emotional distress is a form of pain. Coming to classes provides valuable support for regulating mood, reducing the physical symptoms of mental and emotional stress, and releasing emotional energy that is stored in the body. Adding bodywork and/or acupuncture to your treatment plan can treat imbalances that may be contributing to distress and help boost a sense of overall wellbeing.

Focus on Feeling Better: Mind-Body Connection

Our minds and bodies are connected into a single whole, and emotional states express themselves physically in the body. We get butterflies in our stomach when we are nervous, or blush when we are embarrassed. These are easy, momentary examples, but the same kinds of physical reactions happen for chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotions. This means that mental and emotional healthcare is a cornerstone of treating health concerns and supporting overall wellbeing.

On a biological level, there are multiple networks of communication between the mind and the body. When the brain feels an emotion, it is a signal that activates the neurological system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. The body can then move toward readiness to face a threat or relax into rest-and-digest mode. Hormone levels adjust, which can affect your ability to take quick action, to heal, to feel hungry, and to feel tired. Your immune system can also ramp up or down, depending on the situation.

Because of these deep connections, treatment for many health concerns may be most effective when it includes sessions that focus on mental and emotional states specifically. Mindfulness Counseling, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics can all have a deep impact on creating health. These treatments each focus on different aspects of supporting a mindfulness practice, addressing possible trauma, developing more positive behavioral health habits, and working with the emotions stored in the body, especially when things feel “stuck”.

The mind-body connection is powerful because there is no real division between the body and the mind. They are both aspects of the same whole, and effective treatment takes this into account. Whether mental and emotional healthcare is addressing a cause of distress, a reaction to distress, or some of both, it is an effective aspect of feeling better and creating health.

Replenish Your Capacity to Give

Being generous brings joy and improves our overall health. However, our capacity to give can become depleted by stress, high expectations, and reduced feelings of empathy. In other words, we can feel so distressed that it becomes more difficult to connect with the joy of giving.

Being generous is a proven benefit to our health. It activates positive feedback loops in the brain that in turn can increase longevity, improve heart health, and release oxytocin, the happy trust hormone. However, it is not the size of the gift that brings these benefits, but our ability to connect with the people we are giving to, and to feel for ourselves the joy or support that gift brings them.

Our ability to feel that sense of connection and empathy is reduced by stress. Compassion fatigue, which happens when we care about others to the point that our ability to care becomes depleted, often contributes to a loss of empathy. Other causes include personal trauma, high anxiety or depression, and physical pain.

Reducing stress levels through self-care and pain management is an effective way to restore empathy and open-heartedness. Bodywork and acupuncture both help reset the nervous system away from fight or flight stress responses, even as they treat specific dysfunctions or imbalances. Therapeutic movement classes like HaLé Yoga and MELT help release stress that has become stuck in the body, rebalancing and resetting the nervous system. Psychotherapy and counseling help integrate body and mind, creating space for health.

Treating stress through self-care replenishes the body’s resources for connection with others. This allows us to more fully empathize with others, restoring our capacity to give and to experience the joys of generosity. At HaLé we encourage you to both take time for your own self-care, and to give that gift to others who also need a little replenishing.

Open Heartedness and Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Fatigue can happen when our ability to empathize and stay open hearted takes on too much stress and trauma. Caring for and about others can deplete our mental, emotional, and physical resources, and compassion fatigue is what happens when those resources begin to bottom out. Self-care is an effective way to prevent compassion fatigue and to help come back into a place of open heartedness.

The first step to preventing compassion fatigue is an awareness of the signs and symptoms. These include deep exhaustion and reduced feelings of sympathy or empathy, as well as feeling guilty about not wanting to take care of others. Other signs are feeling irritable or anxious, headaches, trouble sleeping, and feeling less fulfilled or satisfied.

It can be useful to think about compassion fatigue on a scale of 0 – 10, especially during times when you are doing more caring work or offering yourself more generously. Checking in with yourself and how you are feeling helps you to recognize signs of emotional exhaustion before you are overly depleted.

You can prevent and treat compassion fatigue through self-care. Bodywork and massage, acupuncture, therapeutic movement classes like yoga, and psychotherapy all help you become less vulnerable to stress. By purposefully shifting your nervous system out of emergency mode and into rest and restore mode, you rebuild your capacity to care for others with generosity and compassion.

Compassion Fatigue can happen to anyone, and it can be easy to forget to care for yourself when you are focused on caring for others. Taking the time to bring awareness to how you are feeling and dedicating time to a practice of self-care can bring ease to the process of keeping an open heart.

Emotional Support for the Holiday Season

November and December can be some of the most wonderful and most stressful months of the year. Family closeness, preparing for celebrations, and colder, darker days can all bring depression and anxiety as well as comfort and joy. HaLé has expanded our psychotherapy offerings in time to support you through this potentially difficult time of year.

Susan Dendtler, MA, believes that we are all born with a great capacity for love, creativity, joy, and kindness. She has taught Restorative Yoga classes at HaLé for the last year, and is now seeing psychotherapy clients as well. She specializes in restorative practice and integrating yoga with mental health, and is able to meet each person where they are.

Susie embraces those of different cultures, genders, ages, and sexual orientations, and she is committed to creating a welcoming environment for everyone. She sees individuals and couples to process emotions, heal, and overcome any internal or external barriers to reaching their full expression of self. She has extensive experience working with children, teens and parents who have experienced trauma, grief, and loss, and is certified in Trust Based Relational Interventions and Trauma Informed Care.

Whether you need a little extra support through seasonal anxiety or depression, or have deeper emotions ready for healing, Psychotherapy at HaLé can help provide the emotional nourishment you need for your own health and wellbeing.

Natural Treatments for Depression and Anxiety

Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are common, and are caused by complex interactions of brain chemistry, stress hormones, genetics, and other factors. The CDC recommends a collaborative approach, including primary care providers, mental health specialists, and other providers. HaLé treatments offer substantial support and mood regulation to complement medical care.

Bodywork and massage lower stress hormones by up to 50%, and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are mood stabilizers. Sessions provide safe, nurturing touch, which makes space for you to relax, refocus, and find clarity. The effects are also cumulative. The first session can significantly reduce anxiety, and a series of sessions can provide reductions that are twice as large.

Acupuncture is a treatment that works to rebalance the systems of the body, and mood disorders are usually symptoms of a deep and/or complex imbalance. It is proven to reduce stress hormones and boost mood stabilizers, and sessions can have a more immediate effect than many medications.

Classes for therapeutic movement and self-care help to release endorphins, improve the connection between the body and mind, and lower stress hormones. They can also address the ways in which mood disorders can cause the body to curl forward in distress. Uncurling then allows the body to take deeper breaths, find its own internal support system, and feel energized.

Counseling provides one on one assessment and support for mood disorders. Walk and Talk sessions allow the body and mind to process while in motion, Mindfulness Coaching provides tools for cultivating awareness and perspective, and Ayurvedic Nutritional Counseling can help address constitutional imbalances.

Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are complex issues that affect the whole body and mind. Treatment that addresses whole system imbalances and brings the body back into a state of rest and healing can help stabilize mood and promote a general sense of wellbeing.

Emotional Healing that Starts in the Body

Emotional and physical healing are intertwined. Physical issues can have emotional consequences like depression or anxiety, and the opposite is also true. Strong emotions can become stored in the body, often as tension, pain, or dysfunction.

When you receive bodywork and massage or engage in a self-care practice like yoga, the release of stress and muscle tension can also bring an emotional release. Often, but not always, this release brings up negative feelings that you may have pushed back, like fear, sadness, or anger. This can be a shifting point in your healing process! Even though it is painful to experience old emotions, this can be what you need to get to the other side.

Teachers and bodyworkers are not trained or licensed to provide the therapeutic processing that a mental health counselor could, but they can do a lot to create an opportunity for deep emotional healing. They may slow down or stop the physical process of your session or class in order to let the full emotional release move through. Taking full deep breaths will also help your body release the stored energy on its own, and so they may remind you to breathe. Usually you will calm down after a few minutes, and then be able to rejoin the class or return to the flow of your bodywork treatment.

There is true wisdom in saying, “I need support.” Emotional energy is a factor in our health and our healing process, and feeling safe to release emotional energy can help in so many ways. Having someone just be present and supportive by your side can be exactly what you need.

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